29 Percent Cut in California Water Use Shows the Impact of Public Outreach
How do you motivate people to change their behavior? Sometimes all you need to do is ask. In response to an unprecedented period of drought, California officials launched a massive campaign encouraging residents to conserve water by making certain lifestyle adjustments, such as reducing the length of showers and replacing lawns with drought-resistant plants. As the L.A. Times reports, the payoff was astounding – a 29 percent drop in residential water use in the month of May.
The campaign deployed many practices for effective behavior modification – keeping the issue constantly in the public eye, letting residents know exactly what actions they could take, and showing how their efforts were helping the districts reach their targets. One district held a “Guess Your Gallons” challenge that helped educate people on just how much water they were using. The results speak for themselves. By and large, people want to do the right thing – but first they need to understand why they’re doing it, and how they can make a real impact.
By Monte Morin and Matt Stevens, Contributors to the Los Angeles Times
Drought-weary California received encouraging news Wednesday when officials announced that residential water use had dropped 29% during the month of May – the first real indication that the state might meet unprecedented conservation reductions imposed by Gov. Jerry Brown.
The cut in water usage suggests the aggressive campaign to get residents to change their lifestyle – by taking shorter showers, replacing grass with drought-tolerant landscaping and buying water-efficient appliances – is taking hold.
“My first response is almost disbelief,” said Mark Gold of UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. “These results are beyond encouraging; they’re heartening. They make you realize that as a whole, people in urban areas are making the sacrifices necessary to get through this unprecedented drought.”
According to figures released by the State Water Resources Control Board, urban residents cut water consumption 28.9%, when compared with May 2013 – a significant improvement over the 13.6% reduction reported for April. Brown is requiring urban areas to cut water use 25%, the first mandatory water rationing in California history.
Image credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times